SAGINAW, Mich. (ChurchMilitant.com) - Saginaw county's most highly decorated police officer, with more than 35 years of experience and 50 letters of commendation in his file, was abruptly fired in the wake of his investigation that put Saginaw's popular priest Fr. Robert DeLand in jail.
Cradle Catholic Detective Brian Berg, who spearheaded the four-month covert operation leading to DeLand's arrest and conviction, is now unemployed ever since he was unexpectedly fired last October by Saginaw's police chief, Dennis Green.
Berg sat down with Church Militant to explain what happened the morning of Oct. 17.
"I was called in out of the blue. ... The chief said, 'I want to see you,'" recounts Berg. The chief, according to Berg, then curtly told him, "You're done. You're fired."
"I asked why," recalls Berg, and the chief's response was simply, "We're told we don't have to give you a reason."
While investigating DeLand, Berg was getting pressured by his superiors to drop the case. But Berg told Church Militant he never let DeLand's popularity or internal resistance from within his department derail his investigation.
Asked about the pressure that arises from having members inside the police force being friends with the popular priests like DeLand, Berg said, "That's very prevalent in a small community. But in my 35 years, I've tried to never let that influence me. Because at the end of the day, I look in the mirror and [ask] did I do the right thing."
The conspiracy of silence among members inside and outside the Church is even more prevalent within small communities, Berg noted.
"There is a mindset especially in smaller communities where, uh, 'keep it quiet; let's just make it go away,'" he said.
Getting blackballed is common when some won't look the other way. He then recounted what happened when he tried to get a job with another law enforcement department.
"I interviewed recently for a police chief job and I didn't get it when I revealed what happened," he said.
Speaking of his recent firing following the DeLand case, Berg said, "But I told them exactly what happened. If you want to hire a police chief that's going to look the other way, I'm not your guy."
In a written statement issued shortly after his firing last October, Berg clarified that he wouldn't be complicit in covering up any crime, including clerical sex abuse:
As a proud Christian and dedicated police officer of 35 years, with 50 Letters of Commendation during my career, I will never be deterred from doing the right thing, regardless of the costs associated with doing what is right.
A detective should not be expected to look the other way, be labeled too effective, or be told the township does not like media attention. The recent high-profile cases Tittabawassee Township has experienced is not something I personally sought out. However, when presented with such crimes I will always investigate the cases thoroughly and bring the criminals to justice.
I laud the Saginaw County Prosecutor's Office for their hard work and courage to handle such a high-profile case as the Father DeLand case. Many other prosecutor's offices would simply have covered it up.
Berg is not alone. Retired police officers from Buffalo, New York recently confirmed to media that they were directed by superiors to not arrest Catholic priests involved in sexual misconduct. They were told instead to hand such priests over to the Buffalo diocese for special treatment.
Former vice squad detective Martin Harrington revealed, "The department's unwritten policy was that Catholic priests did not get arrested."
"I never had any experience with priests who molested children," he continued. "I never heard of any priests molesting children. But we had priests we caught with pornography or masturbating in the city parks, and our orders were to turn them over to the Buffalo diocese."
"The diocese would deal with them," he said, "but they would not be arrested."
Church Militant reported on the tragic case of Buffalo's priest Fr. Joseph Moreno, who was murdered in 2012 while trying to blow the whistle on the conspiracy of silence between Church officials, law enforcement, corrupt judges and even politicians.
Moreno's sister, Susan Moreno, told Church Militant that a few days before her brother's death, he was going to unveil the homosexual corruption in Bp. Richard Malone's Buffalo diocese.
Susan Moreno related, "My brother told me Tuesday, after the meeting with Bp. Malone, that he was going to blow the whistle on the abuse, the homosexuality activity that was happening in the diocese of Buffalo, as well as other corruption that he saw at St. Lawrence and at St. Jude."
Pennsylvania was another area showing collusion between local law enforcement and corrupt Church officials in covering up clerical sex abuse. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro noted this collusion when introducing his now-famous Pennsylvania grand jury report.
The report showed a "failure of law enforcement," said Shapiro.
Former Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham said part of the problem involved Catholic policemen.
"It was a different time," she said. "You didn't remonstrate with the guy who's giving you absolution."
Watch the panel discuss the conspiracy of silence that safeguards priestly predators in The Download—Catching a Homopredator Priest.